David Gilhooly has stopped making frogs. In fact, he's stopped using
clay. Gilhooly made two clay pieces in 1995
(no frogs) and one last piece in February of 1996 (again no frogs).
The studio floor is clean, save for action figures. There is no clay
dust. There is no clay. There are no glazes. But the finality of it
all doesn't quite sink in until you notice that there is no kiln. What
has David Gilhooly been doing all this time?
one word for you... Plastics."
know. Part of it was that I didn't like making something, then firing
it, then glazing it, and then firing it
again. After making the piece the rest of the process was anticlimactic.
It got to be a chore. The last clay piece I made was Tiki
Moon Rising in February of 1996. That piece had some found objects
in it because I liked the immediacy. I really enjoyed the process of
putting the components together. Before that I hadn't been working in
clay very much. I made five ceramic pieces since 1994 and that was pretty
Gilhooly had renounced frogs in that same period, an occasional piece
of frogfood still made its way into our world when the inspiration hit.
"I think of
the frogfood as one big piece made up of the many, a supermarket, if you
will. Now the supermarket is full and the piece is finally finished."
the initial shock of seeing so much stuff subsides, the unfinished work
on the tables and the finished work on the walls becomes apparent. At
first glance, these are not "Gilhoolys", but if you've followed Gilhooly's
career you will notice the same themes, the often dark, sarcastic humor
and the fecundity that is reminiscent of the FrogWorld. We are used
to seeing historical figures and events interpreted by
Gilhooly via the FrogWorld.
"When I didn't
like the way something was in our world, I just fixed it up in the FrogWorld.
Now, I use contemporary plastic objects to fix up the world. I hate clay.
I don't want to work with it ever again. I don't even want to look at
my old clay work anymore."
to a period of clay and Plexiglas and finally to found plastic
object assemblages, David Gilhooly has gone through a metamorphosis.
The new work combines the Plexiglas construction with the found media.
stuff was too much work. I'd have to cut out all the pieces and then
finish the edges and put the piece together. There was too much time
between the concept and the realization of the actual piece. With the
new work, I really enjoy the construction
of the piece and the immediacy of the medium. The only slow part is
the gathering of materials, but that's the fun part too. It's fighting
with little old ladies for fast food give aways and meeting people from
New York who say that the Goodwills here (Oregon, USA) are the best
and sympathizing with children who tell me their parents won't let them
have gak (a slimy gooey substance, sort of like pla-doh only slimier
The new work
is meant to hang. "Houses always have walls, but it is a rare house
that has built in sculpture stands," laments Gilhooly.
He has solved the problem by making framed shadow boxes that contain
the sculpture and hang just as a framed painting might. These pieces
have a formality that was lacking in the clay work, yet they contain
the same often low humor. They are fun to look at, but in time, when
the individual objects the artist used to make these pieces with, begin
to be viewed as antiques rather than the contemporary junk that they
are considered today, these same pieces will be viewed with more reverent
seriousness not unlike the way we now view the Dada work of the 1920's.
We often forget that the found object pieces of that time were often
met with ridicule because of the commonality of the medium. Now that
those same objects are considered antiques or collectibles the pieces
have acquired a respectability.
the artist winces. "It may be that the individual components
of the pieces have lost their context with time. People who view Dada
work today have different attitudes and meanings connected to certain
objects than they did, say, in the '60's or even today. As for respectability,
well, it may be that people just stop assigning the negative connotations
that they associated with certain objects. They can look at the work
in a new unit of time as the I did when it was first created."
if his personal metamorphosis is complete, Gilhooly gives an emphatic,
"No!". He will continue working with found objects until he finds something
better. So it seems the artist himself is a work, still in progress.
revised December 3, 1999